WBEZ | funeral http://www.wbez.org/tags/funeral Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Burying Cook County's unclaimed dead http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial 1.2.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring." />In a corner of Mount Olive Cemetery in Chicago&rsquo;s far north side, wooden sawhorses and orange plastic cones sat as if part of a construction zone. But then, several hearses drove-up and 23 adult coffins were placed on the sawhorses.</p><p>Cook County usually buries unclaimed bodies in the warm months, when the ground is soft and burials are easier. The burials include many people whose families cannot afford funerals.</p><p>Jesse Aguirre clutched a handful of flowers. He walked up to a man with a clipboard and asked which car was carrying his father, also named Jesse Aguirre. The man pointed. The Aguirre family watched as a plain wooden box was pulled out of the hearse.</p><p>&ldquo;He passed four days before Christmas, so December 21st,&rdquo; says Jesse of his dead father.</p><p>The family has been waiting four months to bury Jesse Aguirre. They say they did not claim the body because they couldn&rsquo;t afford a funeral.</p><p>Jessica Aguirre is wearing a t-shirt with her grandfather&rsquo;s birth and death date on it and a picture of him, beaming. &ldquo;He was a great guy. Always smiling,&rdquo; she said.&nbsp;</p><p>Jessica said she was heartbroken when her family could not bury her grandfather. &ldquo;I was waiting and waiting and waiting. (I was) actually trying to work as much as I could so I wouldn&rsquo;t accept that he was gone,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Jessica said it was not until she saw her grandfather put in the ground, that she finally accepted his death. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s going to be here, so I can always come and visit him,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The Aguirre family hugged county staff and thanked them. The burial was the result of a collaboration that started in a dark time for the Cook County Medical Examiners Office. About two years ago, media reported that the morgue was overcrowded. Bodies were stacked on top of one another and the remains of stillborn babies were tossed into boxes.</p><p>Marty Flagg, Vice-President of the Cook County Funeral Directors Association, saw pictures on the news. &ldquo;The first thing that ran through my mind was &lsquo;some action needs to be taken for these people to get them buried.&rsquo; And immediately I picked up the phone and called a couple of other members of Cook County Funeral Association and said &lsquo;I got an idea&rsquo;&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p><p>Flagg proposed that funeral directors volunteer their services.&nbsp; At the same time, the Archdiocese of Chicago decided to donate funeral plots. Roman Szabelski is with Catholic Cemeteries. &ldquo;There is an old quote, I wish I memorized more of it, it said, &lsquo;See how a community treats their dead and you will learn a lot about that country,&rdquo; said Szabelski.</p><p>The Funeral Directors Association and Catholic Cemeteries have buried about 200 people over the last two years. But this is the last burial with the donated plots. Burials will continue at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery where the county has a contract.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Burial%202.1.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Jesse Aguirre’s family could not afford a funeral and so they left his body at Cook County’s morgue. The county buried him this spring. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />Homewood also came under attack a few years ago for mishandling indigent burials.<br />But the county says a lot has changed since then.</p><p>&ldquo;Right now, we are changing all our processes and looking at them very carefully,&rdquo; said James Sledge, Executive Officer at Cook County&rsquo;s Medical Examiners Office.</p><p>The county has a purchased a new cooler and passed an ordinance that allows cremation. Cremation may save the county money and prevent overcrowding in the future, but so far, few bodies have been cremated. &ldquo;At the moment, burial is still the preferred method for everyone in Cook County,&rdquo; said Sledge.</p><p>The county says it will not creamate any unidentified bodies because someone could eventually claim them, or they could be needed in an investigation. Their website currently lists 36 unidentified remains-- a man with tattoos of wings found in an abandoned building and a young female found in a parking lot are among those listed.</p><p>Sometimes, the public website has pictures of the bodies to help identify them. The site also lists the names of 83 people who have been identified but are unclaimed.</p><p>Most of the time loved ones do not show up for the burials. But today, each body has a volunteer, usually a funeral director, who will stay until the body is buried. Chrissy Knauer Fisk works at a funeral vault company and volunteered to accompany Roberta Hall&rsquo;s body. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m honored to be Roberta&rsquo;s person,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Knauer Fisk stands with her hand on the coffin. A truck comes and lowers the body into the ground. Knauer Fisk looks around and tries to memorize the location. The only thing she knows about Roberta Hall is her name. But Knauer Fisk says she plans to come visit. She said, &ldquo;She has to have someone, why not me?&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan covers policy and social service issues for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/burying-cook-countys-unclaimed-dead-110092 Chicago remembers teen victim of city gun violence http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-remembers-teen-victim-city-gun-violence-105447 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Funeral2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of mourners and dignitaries, including first lady Michelle Obama, stood and applauded the family of a 15-year-old Chicago girl for their strength Saturday, a week and a half after her death brought national attention to the city&#39;s staggering gun violence.</p><p>One speaker after another at Saturday&#39;s funeral remembered Hadiya Pendleton as more than a symbol, but as a girl who had dreams, joked with her friends and loved school and performing as a majorette with the group that performed at events surrounding President Barack Obama&#39;s inauguration just days before her death on Jan. 29. Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim in a gang-related shooting.</p><p><span id="_oneup">Her godfather, Damon Stewart, said some people on Facebook had asked what made Hadiya&#39;s death noteworthy when more than 40 people had already been slain in Chicago this year &mdash; many without so much as a mention in local newspapers. The answer, Stewart told the packed South Side church, was obvious.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">&quot;She&#39;s important because all those other people who died are important,&quot; Stewart said. &quot;She&#39;s important because all of those lives and voices of those families who were ignored, she now speaks for them. ... I don&#39;t believe in coincidence. God needed an angel. God needed to send somebody for us to change.&quot;</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Michelle Obama met privately with the family before the service and then accompanied the girl&#39;s mother to the open casket at the front of the church. Obama, who grew up on Chicago&#39;s South Side, put her arm around Cleopatra Pendleton and patted her back. The woman threw her head back and wailed as the lid of her daughter&#39;s flower-strewn casket was closed.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Moments later, the hundreds in attendance rose to their feet to begin the service with a round of applause &quot;to the strength of this family.&quot; Then, the choir began to sing so loud the floor shook.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Some of Illinois</span>&#39; most recognizable politicians and clergy were in attendance, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. But Pendleton&#39;s family says her Saturday funeral service was not about politics &mdash; it was about remembering a girl who loved to dance, who once appeared in an anti-gang video.</p><p><span id="_oneup">None of the dignitaries was slated to speak Saturday. Instead, close friends, holding back tears, got up to remember her. One of them said she felt Hadiya was &quot;still here with us, whispering the answers in chemistry.&quot; The captain of the King College Prep majorettes presented Cleopatra Pendleton with her team jacket.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Father Michael Pfleger, a prominent Chicago pastor, said Hadiya was the face of an &quot;epidemic of violence causing funeral processions around the country.&quot;</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">&quot;Sisters and brothers, I beg you,&quot; he said. &quot;We must become like Jesus. We must become the interrupters of funeral processions.&quot;</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Pendleton was shot and killed while she talked with friends after school at a park not far from the Obamas&#39; home in the Kenwood neighborhood. Police have said the shooting appears to be a case of mistaken identity involving gang members who believed the park was their territory. No charges have been filed.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Pendleton&#39;s death brought new attention to Chicago&#39;s homicide rate and the national debate over gun violence. Pendleton&#39;s slaying came in a January that was the city&#39;s deadliest in a decade. In 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">A glossy, eight-page funeral program included photos of Pendleton and details about her life, including her favorite foods &mdash; cheeseburgers, fig cookies, Chinese and ice cream &mdash; and the numerous school organizations she was involved in. The program also included a copy of a handwritten note from President Obama addressed to the girl&#39;s family.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">&quot;Michelle and I just wanted you to know how heartbroken we are to have heard about Hadiya&#39;s passing,&quot; it reads. &quot;We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God bless, Barack Obama.&quot;</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Other dignitaries at the service were Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett &mdash; all of whom are from Chicago.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">Quinn mentioned Pendleton&#39;s death in his State of the State address earlier this week as he called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.</span></p><p><span id="_oneup">&quot;There are no words in the English language . or any language . to relieve the pain of parents who lose a child,&quot; Quinn said.</span></p></p> Sat, 09 Feb 2013 13:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-remembers-teen-victim-city-gun-violence-105447 Facebook's new thing, Obama's gun plan http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-01/facebooks-new-thing-obamas-gun-plan-104946 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/FB.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thos003/5986220278/" title="Facebook at Mozcon - Alex by Thos003, on Flickr"><img align="right" alt="Facebook at Mozcon - Alex" height="212" src="http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6148/5986220278_9635614fc2_n.jpg" width="320" /></a></p><p><strong>FACEBOOK&#39;S NEW THING.</strong>&nbsp;Its search box, until now mostly useless, is about to become&nbsp;<a href="http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/200731/finally-a-real-search-function-for-facebook/">a lot more useful</a>&nbsp;as Facebook tries a new way to&nbsp;<a href="http://allthingsd.com/20130115/graph-search-facebooks-way-of-keeping-you-inside-of-facebook/">keep you from ever leaving Facebook</a>.<br />* And it&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wired.com/business/2013/01/the-inside-story-of-graph-search-facebooks-weapon-to-challenge-google">a little scary</a>.<br />* But&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ubergizmo.com/2013/01/facebook-graph-search-in-limited-beta-heres-how-to-sign-up-for-it/">you can&#39;t have it yet</a>.</p><p><strong>OBAMA&#39;S GUN PLAN.&nbsp;</strong>The president&#39;s unholstering <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/obama-guns-plan-to-include-trafficking-law-86260.html?hp=t1_3">some wide-ranging gun-violence proposals</a> -- from universal background checks for all new gun owners to anti-bullying measures in the nation&#39;s schools.<br />* Axelrod: President won&#39;t get everything he wants, but <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/17598309-761/axelrod-despite-nra-congress-will-take-some-action-on-gun-issues.html">will get some things</a> despite NRA objections.<br />* New York state passes <a href="http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gitItf1eSFhVNcRkSUlZzXnnESxg?docId=a0f1e93e28ed4514919737f2a76c0a05">first gun-control law since Connecticut massacre</a>.<br />* <em>Salon:</em> Man who helped save six kids in Newtown now <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/01/15/this_man_helped_save_six_children_is_now_getting_harassed_for_it/">getting harassed for it</a>.</p><p><strong>&#39;I AM DRAINED FROM CRYING.&#39;</strong>&nbsp;After attending the funeral for celebrated computer hacker Aaron Swartz,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/after-aaron-104940">WBEZ&#39;s Robin Amer files a first-person report</a>: &quot;I am thinking about what it means to be a suicide survivor.&quot;<br />*&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbez/from-the-archives-aaron-swartz">Swartz in 2001 WBEZ interview</a>, when he was 14: &quot;Computers and humans will be working together.&quot;<br />* Father: Swartz was &quot;<a href="http://www.suntimes.com/business/17594002-420/aaron-swartz-memorialized-at-service.html">killed by the government</a>.&quot;<br />* Swartz case <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57564212-38/prosecutor-in-aaron-swartz-hacking-case-comes-under-fire/">prosecutor now under investigation herself</a>.</p><p>&#39;<strong>WE SCREWED UP.&#39;&nbsp;</strong><em>The Atlantic</em> <a href="http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/15/the-atlantic-apologizes-for-scientology-ad/">apologizes for running a Scientology ad</a> that looked like a normal online article. It says it&#39;s &quot;<a href="https://www.magnetmail.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?recipient_id=699462885&amp;message_id=2459857&amp;user_id=NJG_Atlan&amp;group_id=0&amp;jobid=12656579">working very hard to put things right</a>.&quot;<br />* <em>The Onion:</em> &quot;<a href="http://www.theonion.com/articles/sponsored-the-taliban-is-a-vibrant-and-thriving-po,30910/">SPONSORED: The Taliban Is A Vibrant And Thriving Political Movement</a>.&quot;</p><p><strong>&#39;HE&#39;D HAVE HATED ... ANYONE TALKING ABOUT HIM IN MOURNFUL TONES.&#39;&nbsp;</strong><em>Tribune</em>&nbsp;columnist&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ct-met-kass-0116-20130116,0,3300856.column">John Kass marks the death of his radio partner</a>, Jim Edwards, known on the air as Jake Hartford.</p><p><strong>NOT BUYING WHAT ARMSTRONG&#39;S PEDALING.&nbsp;</strong><a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57564168/cbs-news-government-rejects-armstrongs-$5m-restitution-offer/">CBS News reports</a>&nbsp;the U.S. government is rejecting Lance Armstrong&#39;s offer to pay $5 million in reparations to the federal government for doping while his team took $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service under a sponsorship deal that banned doping.<br />*&nbsp;<a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/winfrey-armstrong-interview-intense-18222607">Tougher confession</a>&nbsp;may be yet to come.</p><p><strong>DREAM OFF. </strong>Another technical glitch for another 787 passenger jet has prompted <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/japan-787-makes-emergency-landing-due-battery-012759722--finance.html">an emergency landing in Japan</a>&nbsp;and a decision by two Japanese airlines to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-boeing-anabre90f018-20130115,0,4513844.story">ground all their Dreamliners</a> -- another bad omen for Chicago-based Boeing.</p><hr /><p><em>How&#39;s this blog working for you? Your comments welcome. <a href="mailto:Meyerson+WBEZ@gmail.com?subject=How%20you're%20doin'"><strong>Email us</strong></a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-01/facebooks-new-thing-obamas-gun-plan-104946 Thousands gather for Chicago firefighter's funeral http://www.wbez.org/news/thousands-gather-chicago-firefighters-funeral-103762 <p><p>A 32-year-veteran of the Chicago Fire Department who was killed battling a house fire is being laid to rest.</p><p>Thousands of uniformed firefighters and police officers and scores of friends and family members of Herbert &quot;Herbie&quot; Johnson watched as a fire truck bearing Johnson&#39;s casket pulled in front of a church on the city&#39;s Southwest Side on Thursday.</p><p>There, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined firefighters as the casket, draped in a Chicago flag, was lowered from the truck.</p><p>One after another, firefighters talked of the immensely popular 54-year-old father of three, who seemed to know everybody in the department.</p><p>The day before, mourners filed into the same church for a wake, some waiting in line for nearly an hour to get inside to pay their respects.</p></p> Thu, 08 Nov 2012 15:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/thousands-gather-chicago-firefighters-funeral-103762 Pastors protest Illinois cut to burials for poor http://www.wbez.org/story/pastors-protest-illinois-cut-burials-poor-88749 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-05/AP11021718140.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A group of Chicago pastors is protesting cuts to a $15 million state program that pays for funerals and burials for the poor.&nbsp;</p><p>Pastors United for Change says the program pays funeral homes and cemeteries when families on public aid can't afford the cost.&nbsp;</p><p>The Rev. Roosevelt Watkins of Bethlehem Star Church says Gov. Pat Quinn should use discretionary money to help fund the program.&nbsp;</p><p>The Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church predicts "a national embarrassment" if bodies pile up "in President Barack Obama's home state."</p><p>Cook County pays for the mass burial of unclaimed bodies. But the pastors say the county doesn't pay for funerals and can't afford to pay for any more burials.</p></p> Tue, 05 Jul 2011 18:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/pastors-protest-illinois-cut-burials-poor-88749